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This is a personal blog started in 2011. It is no longer active, updated, or maintained. Unfortunately, it appears that I've also irreparably broken some of the links by accident.

08 May 2013

What is a shiny Aspie?

I use this term, but I haven't found a good definition of it anywhere online (maybe I didn't search hard enough if one exists?) so here's a brief explanation:

A shiny Aspie is an autistic person (who frequently identifies themself as a person with autism, a person on the spectrum, a person with high-functioning autism/HFA, a person with Asperger's, or, as the name implies, an Aspie) who strives to achieve normative "success" within a conventional model (i.e. dating, going to college, having a job, marrying, etc.) while appearing as non-disabled as possible as much as possible. They are routinely tokenized by more mainstream autism and disability organizations, and often pride themselves on learning "skills" like small talk, eye contact, and not stimming in public. Conversely, they may claim to be very proud of their neurological wiring, but simultaneously believe that "those poor low-functioning people with autism" should be cured. They may be prone to writing inspiration porn style autobiographies or blogs, and easily fulfilling the model of the self-narrating zoo exhibit.

The term shiny Aspie is also sometimes used as a pejorative to refer to any proponent of neurodiversity. With this use, it implies that anyone who opposes a cure for autism is "just a high-functioning person with Asperger's."

Things to know.


  1. This definition from "Wikibin" elaborates more on the Pejorative Usage of the term that is also used as Shiny Autistic:


    "Shiny autistic

    Shiny autistic is a term used in the Autistic community to denote an individual who is held up as an example of 'what autistics should be'.

    Most shiny autistics (also called shiny auties, shiny autists, or shiny aspies) are high-functioning individuals who become famous by writing a book or otherwise sharing their experience as an autistic. It is felt by other autistics that society at large generalizes the lives of the shiny autistics and expects all autistics to be the same or very similar.

    Shiny autistic may also be used to refer to a high-functioning individual who believes that they are being discriminated against and do not need a cure, but believes that low-functioning autistics are all living 'tragic' lives and require a cure. In this usage the term is derogatory, whereas in the other usage it is not."

    1. Does that make me a shiny aspie? I produced a film on Asperger's that became popular. I never ever want society to use it as a mold for every person on the spectrum though. It's just the experience of certain people, and I included as many as I could to show the diversity.

      It's honestly really mind-effing living in an NT world, being expected to be normal even at showings of my film and events all about autism, I have to be well-dressed and well-spoken or no one will listen to me. I sometimes wonder if I'd be looked upon fondly anymore if I had a meltdown at a film screening. Maybe someday I'll be open to tossing out my life and reputation for the sake of autism acceptance, and stop acting how I'm expected to... if it really did accomplish something.

      I hate looking so normal. I am trying to show that I'm really not, on my YouTube channel, like I made a video showing how messy my room is. Next one is gonna be exhausted Alyssa after socializing (I was the other day and got it on camera). I'm tired of being all smiley and articulate.

  2. i have aspergers, and i would say i fit this mold of a "shiny aspie" to an extent. i differ from your model in that i dont pride myself on it, dont talk about it, and definitely dont think that "those poor low-functioning people with autism" should be cured. yes i try to assimilate into normal society, and do a decent job accomplishing that, but i do so not because i see myself as some superior autist, but because i want people to treat me just like they would anyone else. i still struggle with autism every day of my life. if i cant watch an episode of pokemon before i go to school i cant function that day, i have to special order odorless soap and shampoo because any sort of smell in the shower will make me vomit, regardless whether the smell is considered a pleasant one to other people. besides, your post leaves out how much of a struggle developing those neurotypical "skills" can be (i dont like that word, i see the abilities needed to assimilate as more of adaptations). basically i just want you to know that i do in fact agree with your post, the type of people you mentioned get on my nerves as well, i just feel like you lumped in all aspies/autists who try to assimilate in with those type of people. which, looking back on it, is understandable. seeing as our goal is not to be heard, while their goal is to be the only ones heard

  3. It can also include autistic women who have chosen to master their gender expectations: gossiping, wearing makeup, and shopping for trendy clothes with their "girlfriends". Alexis Wineman is a good example of one. On one hand, she does break the stereotype of autistics being ugly and geeky. But she does reinforce the idea that girls should be physically attractive if they want to be respected. Especially if they are "poor, unfortunate" autistic girls.

  4. I wish I could have and keep a job without having to suppress my Autistic traits, that would probably be my dream job.

    Dating, in itself, doesn't necessarily signify conventional success; Not if you're dating another Aspie and you're both barely self-sufficient financially.

  5. I know I'm late to the party on this one, but I was linked to this post by a friend and find it both interesting and problematic. I probably fit the "shiny Aspie" mold - I do try to pass as well as I can. I do want normative success. I don't want a cure to be forced on anyone, however.

    But, and please correct me if I'm wrong, I read a bit of distaste into this definition, as if somehow it's wrong to want normative success. if I'm seeing things that aren't there, so be it - but I want normative success so people don't treat me like a freak. Is that so wrong?

    Also, I tend to identify myself as a person on the spectrum because I've been told that I'm "not really autistic". I received a diagnosis of Asperger's back when it was still in the DSM-IV, and more than once I've been told that I don't 'count', that I can't speak for anyone who's "really" autistic. And yet, people come at me from the other way and say that if I don't identify myself only as "autistic" I'm some sort of traitor. The mixed messages are exhausting.

    1. Yup, mixed messages are exhausting, which is why it's vital to examine and decide what you really believe--about yourself, about your identity and the language you use for it, about how it's okay to treat other people...other people can't tell you those things. You have to use your own self-knowledge and values.

      And yeah, sometimes mine conflict with major factions of the autistic community as well, but so be it; I'm at peace with why they are what they are.

      I was also diagnosed with Asperger's under the DSM-IV. But here's the thing: the reason why Asperger's was merged into the ASD diagnosis in the DSM-5, is because there is no clinically reliable, clear division between Asperger's, and other expressions of autism. It's called a spectrum condition for a reason, and we are really autistic, and I don't think anyone else is justified in giving you grief for whichever label you feel is accurate and useful to you.

      People who tell you you're not "really" autistic, most likely simply find you inconvenient to the discourse, or incongruous with what they think they know about autism. And most of what most people think they know is wrong.

      Because if "real" autistic people are by definition too disabled to have a voice, and people who are "high-functioning" or Asperger's or verbal or independent in any way are not disabled enough for our opinions to count...then the net result is that autistic people are NEVER qualified to voice an opinion about our own lives. See the Catch-22? It's *designed* to put you in a no-win situation, where your perspective can never count in the discourse about autism. You do not have to buy into it.

      I think there is distaste in the connotations of "shiny Aspie," and that distaste also has to do with a widespread tendency of some factions of people with Asperger's, to look down on other autistic people who will never be as adept at passing, or at academic work, or at achieving typical measures of "success." That attitude is also known as Aspie-supremacy, or Aspie-elitism.

      And most of the neurodiversity proponents who I know, in the communities where I hang out, consider it very wrong. Respecting neurological diversity means actually respecting *everyone's* natural wiring, for its own strengths, on its own terms, not making value judgments about whose sets of perceptual and cognitive strengths and weaknesses are superior or more desirable.

      As for normative success, you can want whatever you want...but so many of the reasons why normative measure of success are considered desirable, are very harmful to marginalized and atypical people. Do you want them because they're what you genuinely want out of life, or because of what they're supposed to signify to others?

      Like sure, I want financial stability and other stuff...but I don't consider my ability to achieve that a marker of my worth or success *as a person.* I can't consider being as imperceptibly autistic as possible, or how normal I could look, or how close to a typical success story I could seem to be, an indicator of my success or value anymore because that was totally unsustainable and created torturous levels of cognitive dissonance and self-alienation. Other things are more important to me and how I actually want to live my life.

    2. Interesting, and that does make sense about people using labels to try and push me out of the autistic debate. With the Stapleton case coming to the forefront of the news, I've been shouted down on various news sites because Issy Stapleton was not as "high functioning" as me (direct quote, not my words - I find functioning labels problematic). It fires me up and makes me want to get back in there if I think about it as trying to invalidate me, rather than just being idiotic.

      In terms of normative success, I don't believe that being "normal" makes me better than anyone else. I want it for reasons that I'm sure look frankly selfish to some - if I hold a job, if I have a doctorate, if I can type and speak and all that, people don't treat me like a freak or a burden. Beyond that, a job, for example, is just something that I have. I don't think I'm better than anyone who doesn't have a job or can't hold one. It's just a difference.

      I want to be myself, whatever that may be, but I also don't want to be anything less than what I believe myself capable of being. If someone else has a different definition of success, they're entitled to it, without any value judgments on it whatsoever. I hope I'm making sense. I tend to ramble!

    3. The "you're too high-functioning!" thing is frustrating and wrong on a bunch of levels, but it seems to come down to how we have to play up what makes us "less" in people's minds in order to argue that no one should be treated as less to begin with, and either way the focus becomes our legitimacy as a speaker rather than the idea itself.

      And yet how hard would it be for people like the murder apologists to get it through their heads that there's no reason for anyone to be labeled as a freak or a burden, or treated badly because of it?

    4. "if I hold a job, if I have a doctorate, if I can type and speak and all that, people don't treat me like a freak or a burden."

      Yup, that's true, and understandable, and a Catch-22 that a whole bunch of us have been pressured into. And it's also wrong.

      I want to be the best at my job in the world, because that would be fun and awesome (um, and maybe financially secure).

      I want NO ONE to be treated like a freak or a burden because that is intrinsically cruel and dehumanizing. I want no one to have to prove, through their job success or communication abilities, that they're worthy of being treated like a real person.

      I don't think anyone *wants* to be less than they can be...but I also think it's vital to stop accepting mainstream/normative definitions of success as what determines who is less and who is more.

    5. I'm sorry, I can't get on board with most of this. Yes, all people should be treated like worthy, wonderful human beings. I don't like the metrics of what determines superiority in our society. (financial security + social skills = success). However, it is what it is. And trying to change those definitions is USELESS. This is why I don't mind being a self-narrating zoo; I'm not telling anyone else's story, I'm telling my own. And I'm doing it for my benefit--it works, on an economic level. If more people stood up and narrated, maybe we would get farther! Because it's those narrators that are informing the general public; don't you care about their opinion? This is the thing that keeps getting ignored in all of this talk about identity, and worthiness, and diagnosis. People. need. to. eat. They need places to live. People who need support with communication/functioning of any kind need to have that. And guess who controls all that? Most of the time, not autistic people. You want to change that? To break the system, you need to work with in it. And from what I've seen on this blog, most people don't seem to understand that.

  6. Shiny Aspie: the Helen Keller of the Autistic World.

    1. Except that Helen Keller wasn't really that trope at all. People tried to make her into that, to smother the messages that she actually devoted her life to, which was radically standing up for the poor and marginalized.

      But yeah...think of the way that Helen Keller is most commonly portrayed--as an inoffensive inspiration for what "overcoming" disability can be. That's more or less a "shiny aspie."

  7. look, i have looked at myself, and i guess people would think i am a shiny aspie. i am self confident, i have a moderate group of friends, i talk, i wear makeup,, i seem 'high functioning.

    is it really right for other Autistic's to hate on 'shiny Aspie's?
    i am as devoted to neurodiversity as you are, but i am not hating anyone else because they are less 'unautistic-seeming' than i am!

    the Autistic spectrum is diverse, and not only should 'shiny aspies' learn to accept the more 'severe' Autists, but people who arent shiny Aspies should learn to accept us too.

    in order for the autistic rights movement, and neurodiversity as a whole to work, Autistic People need unity, we need UNITY. we need to stop bickering amongst ourselves because someone is 'less Autistic-like' or whatever than someone else.

    to conclude my rant, i might seem like an "unautistic" from the outside to some people, but that is only the top layer, and it is a thin layer. i dont try to pretend to be someone else, its not my fault if i seem like someone else.

    1. The issue is less one of what individual people want or have to do in their lives and more how they frame it and how the world reacts to it. Namely the mentality of "I'm/you're okay, but those OTHER autistic people who flap in public/don't speak/have bowel problems/etc... I don't know, man..." or any variation on that. Some people have to pass to survive in some ways, other people just naturally over time act less noticeably Autistic, and that's totally okay. I don't think that people should have to actively subvert ideas about disability or gender, because it's not everyone's passion or they might not have the energy, but I think Please Do Not Feed the Societal Ableism should be a rule of thumb, and sadly it's not something that a lot of the designated "autism celebrities" who are actually autistic observe. I'd say it's analogous to how, at the same time that femme hatred is really not cool, it's also not cool for traditionally feminine women or society to hold the former up as superior to gender-nonconforming women and knowingly reinforcing the idea that going against gender norms is a bad thing, if that makes any sense.

  8. I was diagnosed with Asperger's in 1994 and have shiny Aspie tendencies. I went to college and got a degree and have been job hunting some since then. I may date once I have a job. My mom (not on the spectrum but had some mental illness as a young woman) wasn't into men until about age 30. She game dated at my age, 20's (I'm 24).

  9. What am I supposed to do then? If I act naturally I can't keep a job and I can't get disability because I look too normal what do I do? Neurotypicals hate me Autistics hate me I can't do anything right no matter what whether I act naturally or act like neurotypical I'm shot no matter what I do. What am I supposed to do? How do I resolve this conflict? Where is the middle ground where I can have a life and not be hated for it?

    1. Start your own business, work from home. That's what I'm doing anyway. (pdd-nos guy) If you can't deal with clients, have someone else do that part for you. Make sure that person knows about your challenges. If you think in terms of solutions rather than having fun with complaining, I'm sure you can make that happen.

    2. This person actually was saying they want not to be criticised for "faking normalcy" in order to be able to keep a job, not saying that they couldn't keep a job or that it wasn't working for them.

    3. Ruben, starting an at-home business is not realistic for most people, neurodivergent or not. It requires start up money, a specialized, and access to clients. For a lot of people, it's hide it or starve.

  10. Unfortunately the beliefs of a few shiny aspies of the supremacist variety has been used to successfully stigmatize all who identify as Aspie to the point that many people who used to identify as Aspie have run away from the label. What was a positive thing, a cute name that helped adults from the lost generations find out thier traits are not charactor flaws and there others like them has turned into a negative. It is an acceptable prejudice on Autism forums and elsewhere to say people who call themselves Aspie do that because they do not want to associate with other autistics. It is a shame because it is a slander against Hans Asperger whom the Neurotribes book has revealed to be a true hero, as well as those Aspies who fight against torture and mistreatment of severe autistics at the JRC and ABA in general.

    There are legitimate reasons to approve of the DSM 5 eliminating Aspergers. IMHO the decision
    validated and emboldened those who felt Aspies are albleist elitists because after all the authorities are officially saying oops we were wrong Aspergers never existed .

  11. I am aspie from 1997 and even though I do not recognize DSM-5 and refer to myself as a Neurpie. I am not a shiny aspie or allistic either. Follow up comments are to be sent mikemccroskery@yahoo.com

  12. Thank you very much for your explanations about the "shiny aspies". I was looking for a sort of "translation" of this term in French, having a rather vague idea of what it is. Now with your article, all is very clear.
    I see this phenomenon of narcissist Asperger's in various countries, and IMO this is a problem. Out of the scope of the present post.

    (Btw. I'm trying to develop the Autistan concept, and I think that we were in touch in the past with AutisticAlliance.org (a sort of "sandbox" concept). I'm glad to see some autistic people opposed to the "shiny-ness" trap.)

  13. Thank you for this blog and this discussion on particular. This is an interesting topic. I do not believe that I would be considered as a "shiny" autistic, as I identify as autistic and have issues that could be considered disabling. Unfortunately, I'm not able to be recognized as disabled, I'm just viewed as defective. Case in point: I was recently taken to task by my supervisor at work for not meeting (unrealistic) productivity goals. She has stated repeatedly that my documentation is some of the best she has ever seen, and when I said, "yes, I am meticulous" she replied "you need to be less meticulous and get more done." Because of my autism I am not able to be less meticulous (or as I call it, sloppy). Most of my coworkers have also said the productivity expectation is totally unrealistic, and people are quitting weekly because of this. In the past, I had a boss tell me that I was "very thorough" not as a compliment, but as a complaint. Another one said I was "rigid." I have never held most jobs for more than a year or two because of my severe interpersonal dysfunction. Still, I have a job and appear to be functioning so I "pass" for NT in many instances. I wish I could be accepted as myself, and get a job doing something that I'm comfortable doing where I don't have to interact with others. Unfortunately I have to try to keep this job because I'm old and do not interview well due to my autism. I need the health insurance because I cannot afford to pay over $500 a month for coverage before paying copays and deductibles.


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